Former Senior Minister of State Sidek Saniff ’s eulogy for Late Mr Lee Kuan Yew : He walked the talk


Former Senior Minister of State Sidek Saniff paid tribute to Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in a eulogy at the State Funeral on Sunday (Mar 29)

His eulogy, translated from Malay, is reproduced below:


When Mr Lee Kuan Yew asked me to stand as a candidate in the 1976 General Elections, I was surprised. My decision to accept his offer to stand as a PAP candidate created quite a stir in the Malay community. Just a few years earlier, I had expressed differing views from the Government about education.

He was a tough taskmaster but always full of advice. Never waffle, he would say. Be open. Be attentive, firm. But above all, be polite. His advice was to concentrate on education. This would ensure our children would go on to become trustworthy trustees of our nation, he argued. I am most grateful to Mr Lee for fully supporting the formation of the Mendaki foundation.

In 1979, when I was to accompany Hon Sui Sen, then Minister of Finance, to China, Mr Lee asked me if I could take the cold Chinese winter. ‘Do you have an overcoat?’ he asked. I said that I would buy one. ‘No, don’t waste money,’ he replied. After pausing, he said: ‘Ahmad Mattar has a good overcoat. Borrow from him.’

“What about boots to cover your shoes for walking?” he continued. I said I didn’t have any but I would buy a pair. ‘No, no don’t waste money.’ He paused. ‘Borrow from Chok Tong!’ So off I went to China with a borrowed overcoat and a borrowed pair of boots!

Mr Lee believed in frugality, both in his personal life as well as nationally. And he walked the talk. This episode is an example, and also showed his fatherly character and sharp eye for detail.

Speaking of not being wasteful, Mr Lee disliked wasting time. He was not one to procrastinate. In late 2010, when I presented him with a copy of my book of speeches and news articles entitled ‘The Singapore Malay Paradigm’, he sent me a personal note of ‘Best Wishes’ a few days later. I felt touched by his gesture and replied that the book would not have been possible but for Mr Lee’s foresight. He responded on that very day itself, with his own handwriting. He said: ‘Thank you, Sidek’.

I had several opportunities to accompany him abroad. When he travelled to Israel and Jordan in 1995, I was on the Singapore delegation. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Jordan’s King Hussein both entertained us in their respective homes. This was a classic example of Jewish and Arab hospitality: It was appreciation and respect being bestowed on our former PM. Respect tinted in gold.

Fellow Singaporeans, today we register our deepest respect and appreciation to this great man. Mr Lee was the embodiment of the term ‘statesman’. Someone who comes along once every few decades to make an indelible mark on society and the world at large.

To his family, the Nation shares the sorrow that you feel. Please accept our heartfelt condolences. May you be consoled in the knowledge that our founding father, your father, had lived a long and meaningful life. Singaporeans are indeed indebted to him.

Let me recite a Malay pantun or short poem: Pisang emas dibawa belayar Masak sebiji diatas peti Hutang emas boleh dibayar Hutang budi dibawa mati. A Malay quatrain which means that monetary debts can be paid off, but debts of good deeds cannot be repaid. A person brings such debts to his grave.

There is also a Malay saying or pepatah Melayu: “Harimau mati tinggalkan belang, manusia mati tinggalkan nama”, that means a person who has done many great deeds will always be remembered.

Mr Lee, we would like to assure you that your legacy remains intact. We shall always cherish your advice, especially in governing. You said: “If you want to be popular all the time, you will misgovern”. And you always urged us to be pragmatic. And above all, you insisted we remain honest and clean. Two characteristics that have deep solid meaning.

PM, SM, MM, farewell.

Farewell, my friend. Farewell.
– CNA/cy

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